Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Making Life Changing Decisions

It’s inevitable, and will happen to all of us at one time or another. As we age, we begin to need more and more assistance doing everyday tasks. Chores like housecleaning, cooking, driving, yard work and caring for pets can become virtually impossible as we age. That’s when the decision making process comes into play for those of us who are children with aging parents. There comes a time as children, we must step in and help our parents through the aging process. Decisions to be made are not easy, but keeping our parents quality of life and best interest in mind will help guide us down the right path.

If you’ve kept up with my blogging over the past few months, you will have noticed a trend in my Mother’s health. She was diagnosed early in 2008 with Ulcerative Colitis and her health has been deteriorating slowly since the diagnosis. While on my way to Chicago for a Thanksgiving celebration with friends, she became ill and was hospitalized. I immediately flew from Chicago to Phoenix to help care for her. I stayed for three weeks bringing her home from the hospital during that time and was her full time caregiver during her recovery. I left reluctantly after three weeks knowing I would be back for a scheduled visit over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Talking and webcamming via computer daily with her helped to ease my mind that I had made the right decision to return home for a couple of weeks. I felt she was doing ok during my absence and the time quickly came for me to return. I thought this trip over the holidays would be much more pleasant, including a visit to my sister and her family in California.

Upon my arrival, I realized what a good front she had been putting on. Her health had deteriorated since my last visit and I felt now she was unable to do even the smallest of chores around the house due to her weakened state from the disease. I knew deep in my heart that something had to change. Was it time to move her to an assisted living facility, hire someone for full time in home care, move her to be with me in Florida, or with my siblings in California or Nebraska? My head was spinning from all of the options. The first step in the decision making process was to talk to Mom and find out what she wanted to do. I found the right time to have the discussion. Ultimately, I found out that under no circumstances, was she ready to leave the home that she and my Father occupied for the last fifteen years. Right or wrong, that’s how she felt. How could I not honor her wishes? I felt we had made good progress. Now at least I knew what I was dealing with. She wanted to stay in her own home for now.

I started researching in home care agencies but also started to think about my own personal situation. I was at a place in my own life where I had no ties to where I was living. Of course I had made friends living in South Florida, but felt no strong ties that would keep me there. I started to think about what would be best for my Mom, and how I would be able to manage her health and care living almost twenty-five hundred miles away. If I did move to Arizona to become her caregiver, would it work? All kinds of questions were filling my mind about the feasibility of it all. Sure, the move itself would be easy enough, but once arriving in Arizona the difficult part would begin.

After spending some time weighing the pro’s and con’s I felt that I should move my household into storage and make the trek on Route 10 from Florida to Arizona to become her primary caregiver. Even before going home to pack up everything there was much work to do in Arizona. I set up a physical therapist to come in twice a week and work with her on strengthening, and my sister and I hired an in home caregiver to come in the alternate days of the week to spend time with Mom and to do light housework. Additionally, I set up meals on wheels to come in daily to ensure she had at least one balanced meal per day during my absence. I actually felt comfortable leaving for a few weeks knowing all of the actions that we had taken to ensure her safety and wellbeing during my absence.

I returned home, secured storage and movers, began the process of packing up my household. Once that was complete, I began my journey from Florida to Arizona. Once arriving at Mom’s, I found that all my work setting up the services for her was well worth the effort. She enjoyed the company of the caregiver, the physical therapist had seen her improving in the weeks I was gone and the meals on wheels worked out great for her. I felt she had been well cared for.

Now I’ve been here about two weeks and we are still in the adjustment phase I think. Both of us are used to living alone and having our own space and way of doing things and each of us must compromise occasionally, which at times is difficult for both of us. I know she is happy that I’m here to help her out, but she is determined to get herself back to the point where she can live an independent life and return to her normal lifestyle.

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